During its scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the Yuba County Board of Supervisors named District Five Supervisor Randy Fletcher as the new chair of the board.
Fletcher is replacing former chair and District Four Supervisor Gary Bradford. Along with Fletcher taking over as chair, District One Supervisor Andy Vasquez was elected vice chair.
For Fletcher, who has been on the Yuba County board since 2017, this is his second time serving as chair. He said his main goal as chair this time around is to put focus on one community in his expansive district to prove that improvements can be made. He said once he can show that his plans work, then it will be easier to duplicate those accomplishments for other communities moving forward.
He said his intentions in the coming year will be ensuring that Brownsville has its needs covered.
“I need a success story,” Fletcher said. “Let’s try to get something accomplished there.”
Fletcher said he would like to see major improvements made regarding fire safety, water and broadband in Brownsville.
“I want to expand safety, water programs, everything attached to fire, water and broadband,” Fletcher said. “They can’t survive without those three issues. That doesn’t mean I don’t support other areas, it just means I need to put energy into one location so I can show success.”
He said spreading attention and resources out too thin in an effort to get to everyone wouldn’t produce the same results.
Fletcher also said filling the fire safety coordinator position and increasing staff at the Office of Emergency Services (OES) for the county would be a big step forward.
“Last year we lost all of our OES, so we’re trying to beef up OES,” Fletcher said. “When you have an emergency situation, such as Camptonville, I’m gonna call OES and get things moving.”
Fletcher said what happened recently in the foothills with the winter storm and power outages was a prime example of why the county needed more staff.
“It happened to be over the holidays and our only person working in OES was on vacation in New Mexico,” Fletcher said. “We called him back in, he was on the road. He got home late at night and started working on it. PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric Co.) really stepped up and made a huge difference. They provided fire wood, gasoline, people. Our public works came in and did overtime and worked around the clock. They put in the time, energy. We needed it not only in Camptonville but other areas as well, such as Brownsville. I couldn’t get people out. Staff really did a tremendous job despite a lack of equipment and people.”
With regards to fire safety, Fletcher said he has been in contact with PG&E and others to help the foothills area and potential wildfires.
“Fire safety, there is so much to be done in terms of cleaning, clearing, coordinating of our fire potentials,” Fletcher said. “I had a meeting yesterday with PG&E. I’m asking them to join us. I want to focus on the foothills and there’s a tremendous amount of financial support coming from the state government.”
Among the funds available from the state are those that concern the Resource Conservation District (RCD). Fletcher said Yuba County’s RCD staffing is severely lacking when compared to neighboring counties, such as Nevada and Butte counties.
“There are funds available through the state and other counties have full-time staff, we have three volunteers,” Fletcher said. “Nevada County and Butte County both have very active RCDs. We don’t have any money. So we have three volunteers and we’re trying to help them. I’ll try to get them support.”
Along with fire and broadband, Fletcher’s focus on water will be a big priority for him.
“North Yuba Water District, how do we help maximize on their water supply?” Fletcher asked. “Making North Yuba Water better, stronger, and more water (that’s the focus). Supporting Camptonville, some of their systems are broken down. Dobbins and Oregon House are in dire need of water. I would like to use that as a jumping ground to get more work done. How do I find the water and get grants to help keep our water and water rights?”
Yuba County Jail
On the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was correspondence from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and what they claim are deficiencies with Yuba County Jail and issues specifically related to those taken in custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In a letter sent last month to both Yuba County Sheriff Wendell Anderson and Bradford, the ACLU brought forth several allegations against the jail and what it said are rights violations of those held in civil custody because of a contract the jail has with ICE.
In a story published by the Appeal over the weekend, Anderson denied the allegations made by the ACLU and in a tour of the jail on Friday, the Appeal did not observe any of the issues described in the letter from the ACLU. Those issues included, among other allegations, that the jail has ““consistently subjected individuals in ICE custody to dangerous and unlawful treatment, including a lack of acceptable medical care, spoiled food, unhygienic conditions, and unnecessary use of administrative segregation.”
Asked why supervisors did not bring up this letter during their meeting on Tuesday, Fletcher said there was nothing left to be said regarding the matter.
“We’ve been inundated with a lot of correspondence about Yuba County Jail,” Fletcher said. “They make a lot of accusations … it’s not true. It’s just not true. To bring it up, there isn’t really anything to bring up with that letter.”
Both Fletcher and Bradford said it is typical for supervisors to not comment on correspondence items on the agenda.
“What happened today is very typical for the correspondence section of an agenda,” Bradford said in an email. “It’s quite unusual for a supervisor to mention an item listed there, although it does occasionally happen. Supervisors would typically read the items under correspondence as part of their board packet review prior to the meeting and could reach out to staff if they had any questions about one of the items.”
Regarding the continued allegations about conditions at Yuba County Jail, Fletcher stressed that they are being overblown.
“I’ve been in other jails, around the country, and I’ve seen some pretty rough jails,” Fletcher said. “Our jails are pretty good. So this scenario has been going on for years. We’ve heard lots of threats and letters and demands that are not true. They can say what they want, but they can’t back it up. I don’t know what to respond to. We’ve responded previously. They don’t want to take a look, they just want a lawsuit and get money. It’s just kind of redundant over and over.”
Another item on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was the removal of Dayelle Lubeck as District One commissioner on the Yuba County Planning Commission.
During a brief discussion on the issue, Vasquez simply said he lost confidence in her role on the commission. All supervisors, except District Two Supervisor Don Blaser, voted to remove Lubeck from her role.
“It’s a question of faith,” Vasquez told the Appeal after the meeting. “We appoint people we think are going to be conscientious of their work. If you lose faith in their work, then it’s not conducive to what we’re doing.”
Vasquez said he always has had the focus to make Yuba County a better place and works to make sure the county is steered in the right direction.
“People seem to think they are irreplaceable,” Vasquez said. “… They’re there to facilitate a positive outcome with Yuba County with me and if that’s not possible, then I don’t need them. It was my choice to part ways. I have other people that … are good at their job and will work toward a positive result for Yuba County.”
He said there were other committees that are open for people to be creative, but the role that Lubeck played was not one of them.
“I appreciate everything she did,” Vasquez said. “But we have to fine tune things so they work. One person’s not going to slow us down. We’re going to be the fastest growing county in the state.”
He said the county has a lot of potential moving forward, including more housing and the work that agencies such as Yuba Water Agency do to bring in more funds to the county that aren’t always available to other counties.
“We’re doing things the right way to build a house, not of sand, but of steel,” Vasquez said. “We have the most potential in the nation. We just got through recovering several thousand acre feet of water that we are now getting paid for, sold to the Bay Area who has the most influence in Sacramento. By nature, we are supplying water to these people, they are going to make sure we stay stable. … The opportunity is there, it’s just recognizing the opportunity.”